Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Room available in SF

Go live with my brother:

Hello all,

Please pass this on to the homeless nearest and dearest to your heart.

Thank you kindly. And yes Stephen, I still live amazingly, stupendously far from the mission. At least 10 minutes.



Bright, beautiful br w/ bath. Cheerful roomies.

About us:

- I am a San Francisco State graduate student in my mid thirties, studying research psychology. Former room mates have described me as easygoing, cheerful and pleasant.
- My girlfriend Kate is a designer, and creates product packaging for one of those fancy-pants design firms that San Francisco is famous for. You have seen her work at your local supermarket/grocery/corner store, or the hackneyed “been living under a rock/on a desert island/in a monastery” applies. (That is a bit of an exaggeration. I am sure I will get into a lot of trouble when she reads this.) She is also a nice person to be around.
- I am vegan and Kate is vegetarian. Neither of us faint at the sight of meat, nor have we lived with a vegetarian roommate. We enjoy to cook and do so often. Our lives are busy and cluttered, but we do our best to make sure that common areas are not. We smoke cannabis. We don’t smoke cigarettes. We have our friends over every so often for dinner.

We are looking for:

- An easy going, considerate roommate knows how to pick up after themselves, pay their share of the bills and plays well with others. We are open to well-behaved, well cared-for pets. There are hopes to add a dog to our household, though these are still in the early stages* – we intend to figure out the ifs-and-whens when you are here to discuss them.

The apartment:

The room is about 14 x 13 with a 15 foot ceilings, and a full length built-in closet. The house itself is a bit over 1000 ft.², a top (third) floor corner unit with views of McClaren park. Amenities:

- Washing machine and dryer
- Dishwasher, microwave, gas stove, garbage disposal.
- Full bathroom of your own (We use the other one).
- Back deck (We should use it more often)
- Internet access, and a generous selection of digital media: several terabytes movies, tv shows, documentaries and music. And every xbox game ever created, though we never play those these days. We don’t have cable – bit torrents make it a tad redundant. There is a cable hook-up in your room, should you require it.
- Plenty of permit-free street parking (Hah! Let’s see the other ads you read today top that :>), and parking space for a motorcycle in the garage.

Location :

- Less than two miles from the Balboa Park BART station and the 280 freeway, and an equal distance in the opposite direction from the 3rd St Muni line, the Bayshore Caltrain station and the 101. The 9x bus stops right outside, and the 29 stops about five minutes walk away. Kate takes the bus and Muni to work. I take the bus to school. Stonestown and Serramonte Malls are a few minutes drive.
- Right next to McLaren Park, the second largest stretch of open space in the city after the golden gate, and just below San Bruno Mountain. McLaren Park has a leash free zone, multiple basketball courts, and plenty of open space for games and picnics. There’s also lovely long walks with views — this is not a park you will get bored walking your dog with. If you like the outdoors, San Bruno mountain is one of San Francisco’s best kept secrets. Fortunately, the fires last week did not do much damage.

We are taking pictures today. Let us know, we’ll send them to you.

*There has been a dog added to the household.

Monday, November 24, 2008

In Which Alice Accidentally Shoves Her Thumb Up Some Guys Nose

This weekend, I accidentally stuck my thumb up some guys nose. Here's how it happened:

We got into Boston late Thursday night. I had had several panic attacks getting there. The first one due to a harrowing experience for which I blame Google. The map it had given me lead us absolutely astray, onto snowandice covered dirt roads, into the middle of the snowy wildernessy woods of Central New York all in order to try and get to the kennel we booked Jeeves into. In the first place, I was anxious about leaving the dog at a kennel and in the second place, we were nearly lost in the wilderness with nowhere to turn around. I envisioned starving to death in the middle of the forest, cursing Google with my last, dying breath. I also envisioned being stranded for awhile, then finally rescued, then writing a nasty letter to Google. Then I stopped the car and burst into tears.

We eventually did find the kennel which was okay, but not wonderful and had the horrible experience of literally sneaking out on the dog when his back was turned. He gave a few pitiful barks as he heard our voices in the parking lot. It was terrible.

We left the kennel and then drove 6 hours, across the rest of New York State and all of Massachusetts, towards Boston. I would love to tell you about the scenery and how beautiful it was, but it was completely dark the whole way there. We had a plan to drive to a train station outside of Boston to leave the car in order to avoid exorbitant parking fees at our hotel, but in part due to our shenanigans trying to find the kennel as well as a chain of other events that thwarted our journey (starting with a 3 hour oil change), we had set out later than planned and I was concerned we would miss our friends or get lost in Boston or some other horrible fate befalling us. Which led to my second meltdown, in the parking lot of the Needham Heights train station. I also had eaten literally nothing all day (this was part of the chain of events).

Nevertheless, we ended up on the train and headed towards the Financial District and our hotel which was a 4.5 star hotel that was ridiculously cheap through Hotwire. Once we got there and dropped off our bags, we took a cab to the bar where our friends were.

Larke is there getting her LLM degree from BU and before she and I departed for the East Coast, we made these plans with Nikki, Stuart and Amy to have a sort of convergence in Boston. To be honest, I'm a little surprised we all made it there, but I think sheer determination and an explicit dedication to the art of enjoying ourselves certainly stacked the odds more in our favour than would be otherwise. Cheers to not being stay at home wet blankets!

After a few drinks, we headed back to the hotel and went to sleep. Well, not straight to sleep, but sleep eventually after we had done things you normally do in a hotel room. You know, check out the soaps, look in the mini bar, deface the bible. That sort of thing.

The next day, we arose and went to breakfast, before meeting up with the others. We were a man short as we were a man down. Stuart had taken ill and was unable to join us on the Duck Tour as planned. The Duck Tour was interesting and campy the way all touristy things worth doing are, although we were spared the trademark Boston accent from the tour guide, as he was from Los Angeles.

That evening, we went to a delicious Italian restaurant, the name of which escapes me, but it was quite, quite good. By this time, Stuart was feeling better and we had been joined by a college chum of Nikki's, named Justin.

This brings us to the bar where I inadvertently stuck my thumb up some guy's nose. After dinner we went to this great bar, where I ordered dessert (a Godiva martini, sans cream). Then I had a beer. Then I had another beer. I think. At some point, Ryan decided he'd had enough, so he went to the hotel. It was then time to hit the dance floor, which Nikki and I did.

At some point, while dancing, some guy oozed up behind me and whispered something in my ear. I think he said, "You're the brave one - none of the others are dancing." but I wasn't quite sure. I was too excited that the band was playing David Bowie. I turned around, my hands were still in the air from waving them around maniacally as one does (or at least as I do) while dancing. My hands were in sort of a loose fist and my right thumb was sort of sticking out. I twisted my upper body around to say, "WHAT?" as he simultaneously leaned closer towards me. My right thumb made contact with the outer edge of his nostril. It was too late to stop the momentum of my upper body that had somehow focused it's force directly into my right arm and thumb. He jerked his head backwards, somewhat awkwardly and made a vague attempt to bring his own hands up to protect himself, but it was too late. I withdrew my thumb as quickly as I had made contact, wiped it on my jeans and went back to dancing. He didn't say a word or even look in my direction for the rest of the evening.

All those years of going to bars and dance parties and getting hit on by strange men in the worst, most unimaginitive way - if I'd only known that minor physical assault in a somewhat humiliating manner would have gotten rid of them I would have been saved the aggravation.

The bottom that insisted on following me around the dance floor of Q's on my 21st birthday (I never did see his face) or the man who leaned on me at the Joyce and slurred, "You're the worsht dartss player I've ever sheen...C'I show you how?? Whatsh your name?". The guy who followed me down State Street trying to hold my hand or the other guy who followed me down State Street and kept trying to get me to go to a reggae show with him (yuck on two counts). The toad who followed me around on New Years Eve 2007. All these people would have been saved at least time if not effort had I just done something like jam my thumb up their nose.

Ah well. There's always next time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lessons in Compulsive Hoarding: The Collyer Brothers

I stumbled upon this Wikipedia article today. It's about the Collyer Brothers, Homer Lusk and Langley, who lived in a Harlem brownstone and hoarded over 100 tons of:

"...baby carriages, a doll carriage, rusted bicycles, old food, potato peelers, a collection of guns, glass chandeliers, bowling balls, camera equipment, the folding top of a horse-drawn carriage, a sawhorse, three dressmaking dummies, painted portraits, pinup girl photos, plaster busts, [their mother's] hope chests, rusty bed springs, the kerosene stove, a child's chair (the brothers were lifelong bachelors and childless), more than 25,000 books (including thousands about medicine and engineering and more than 2,500 on law), human organs pickled in jars, eight live cats, the chassis of the old Model T Langley had been tinkering with, tapestries, hundreds of yards of unused silks and fabric, clocks, fourteen pianos (both grand and upright), a clavichord, two organs, banjos, violins, bugles, accordions, a gramophone and records, and countless bundles of newspapers and magazines, some of them decades old."

They guarded these things vehemently, setting up booby traps all over the house to protect against intruders. They died in this gruesome manner:

Langley was crawling through a tunnel of newspapers in order to bring the blind and paralyzed Homer some food. One of his booby traps was set off and killed him. Homer died a few days later, of malnutrition, dehydration and cardiac arrest.

They found Homer first, because a neighbour called to complain about the smell. He hadn't been dead long enough in order to be the culprit, so they realised that Langley must be dead in the house as well. It took them several weeks before they discovered him, after:

"...removing 3,000 more books, several outdated phone books, a horse's jawbone, a Steinway piano, an early X-ray machine, and even more bundles of newspapers. More than nineteen tons of junk were removed, just from the ground floor of the three-story brownstone. The police continued to clear away the brothers' stockpile for another week, removing another 84 tons of rubbish from the house."
I don't really know why this sort of thing fascinates me as much as it does. It's not just hoarders, it's all sorts of stories that suggest the frailty of man. I laugh, often, because it's either that or cry; my heart breaks for these people at the same time as I am thoroughly irritated and/or titillated by them. It's just so ludicrously tragic.

Hoarders are just another example of human machines with faulty wiring: and there, but by the grace of fortune, goes any one of us, if we haven't already got faulty wiring.

I lived with a borderline hoarder as well as have known one or two socially. The crux of the disorder is that the hoarder (usually angrily or defensively) refuses to admit that their hoarding is a problem, seeing as it doesn't harm anyone. The person I lived with had t-shirts from the 8th grade - that he couldn't wear because he was a fat kid in the 8th grade and as such, the shirts were too big for him. They also had holes in them. He kept packaging materials from products he'd purchased, had several different collections of things and a permanent grudge - almost a vendetta - against his mother for disgarding some cherished childhood objects of his. He also had a storage unit full of stuff that he refused to talk about and that I was never allowed to see. Moving house was always a nightmare (at least more so than normal) because instead of the cathartic and traditional throwing away of crap you don't need anymore, he clung on to it, and so ended up packing boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes of garbage. Someone else I knew would save the sides of dot matrix printer paper, coin wrappers and literally trash he found on the road - he picked up a road cone once.

Of all the hoarders or people with hoarding tendancies I've known, the common theme is that they are trying to cling on to some memory. As if the objects around them will help them keep something from fading away. Or they're stuck at some point in their life when something awful happened and they can't move past it. The inanimate object has become some sort of touch stone or remembrance. Often, the inanimate objects must be 'saved' in the emotional as well as the physical sense, as it often has become almost animate in the eyes of the hoarder. Here's a way to explore the reasoning behind hoarding. Think about people who name their cars - a lot of people do this. I, myself, feel sometimes, what I think is a strange attachment to my car. After all, it drove me back and forth to college, has made countless trips to the barn (whichever barn that happened to be), was given to me with all the love and affection a father could possibly have for his daughter and drove me and my new little family across these United States. I am sentimental about the old thing - I actually took a picture of it this morning as it had spent it's first night in the snow.

This makes evolutionary sense - our prehistoric brains are not designed to deal with inanimate objects that so closely simulate a living creature. We assign the same affection to our cars as would to domesticated animals. So then multiply that affection by a lot (due to say, some faulty wiring) and we have an unhealthy attachment to an inanimate object. What triggers this faulty wiring? Perhaps a specific incident or repeated specific incidents.
Anyway. Enough amateur psychology. I'm going to finish knitting a scarf.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Kilgore Trout and Dog Shit. Also: Need More Books.

I had a disappointing experience yesterday. I started to read The Loop by Nicholas Evans, which seemed like it might be an interesting book, all about wolves and what not. I remembered liking The Horse Whisperer.

Then I remembered, I read The Horse Whisperer when I was 14.

Because that's exactly what his books read like: romance novels for 14 year old girls. He and John Irving should have a slumber party together (I want the hours I spent reading Widow for One Year back, dammit!).

Which brings me to the current dilemma. Both Ryan and I spent a good portion of time over the last few days, standing in front of our bookshelf, frowning. We've either read (or reread) all the books on our bookshelf or they're a text book from college that one of us couldn't bear to part with. This was how I came to pick up The Loop, as I had been given it years ago and never bothered to read it. It made it all the way across the country, I thought I might as well read it and it seemed as if there was nothing else.

When this happened in Palo Alto, I would just go and peruse my parents library as my father for years has made a frequent habit of picking up books at libraries from the free pile and driving my mother nuts.

So the current dilemma. Need more books. I spent some time yesterday looking at what Google has to offer and there are some good ones but the tactile pleasure of curling up in bed, holding the book and turning the pages is lost when you are staring at a laptop screen. Libraries are terrible for me: I always forget to return the book.


Speaking of books, I reread Breakfast of Champions the other day. I also took the dog to the dog park. I thought about a story that Kilgore Trout might write. The story is about an alien who comes to earth and ends up arriving in a dog park. The people on the planet he comes from don't keep other organisms as pets, so he doesn't understand what the dog park is. He assumes that the dogs are some kind of livestock and the people are harvesting the shit, and saving them in plastic bags to preserve them.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Faith in Atheism.

The new "A" in the sidebar is a link to Richard Dawkins "OutCampaign." I think it's more important now than ever, to be absolutely open and clear about one's atheism. Not to waffle and hedge about it, in order to make other people feel comfortable. Our cultures spends so much time making sure that people of all religions feel good about themselves as long as there is some religious affiliation or even the desperate claim of being 'spiritual'. But 'god forbid' someone takes an active, informed, well thought out claim that they do not believe in God. From Slate:

"Many Americans doubt the morality of atheists. According to a 2007 Gallup poll, a majority of Americans say that they would not vote for an otherwise qualified atheist as president, meaning a nonbeliever would have a harder time getting elected than a Muslim, a homosexual, or a Jew. Many would go further and agree with conservative commentator Laura Schlessinger that morality requires a belief in God—otherwise, all we have is our selfish desires. In The Ten Commandments, she approvingly quotes Dostoyevsky: "Where there is no God, all is permitted."

Religious people often have a misguided belief that atheism is a negative, selfish, grim and morally corrupt way to be. That somehow, unless you answer to God, you are less capable of goodness and kindness. I think, however, a far more difficult person to answer to is yourself. Dostoevesky is correct in the quote Schlessinger uses, misguidedly, that "Where there is no God, all is permitted". Isn't it a much better way to be, to do good and kind things out of goodness and kindness, not out of fear of recrimination - because all is permitted and you can choose to be good and kind? Isn't it far more magical that this world functions, exists and grows all on it's own, with all it's amazing creatures, plants, organisms, systems, etc., than to believe that someone essentially waved his hand and created it just so? Isn't it far more elegant to study the world around you, learn about it and question it, be skeptical of it, and try to understand it and take responsibility for yourself in it than to lazily suggest it's all up to someone else?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Yesterdays adventure and why the "revoke the LDS tax exempt status" idea is stupid.

2 things.

My adventure yesterday:

I rode up to the top of a big hill (the locals called it a 'mountain') and down again, through the woods, with intermittent blizzarding, in search of a lost pony, Trixie, who is about the size and colour of a deer. We spent about 4 hours looking for her - at one point following her tracks for about half a mile - before giving up and turning around. We came to the edge of a clearing we had gone through several times already, when Raina stopped and swung her head to the right, ears pricked. Trixie was standing several yards away, partially hidden by trees. We shook the grain bucket and called her name. She paused and then burst towards us trotting that big trot that very excited horses have, with her tail raised high and her neck arched. She plunged her nose into the grain bucket, we put a halter over her and took her home.

Silly pony! She had spooked at some sheep the day before and literally run for the hills.

second thing.

Some friends on Facebook have joined a group called 'Revoke the LDS Church's Tax-Exempt Status' the grounds for this being that since they asked their congregations to participate campaigning in favour of California's Proposition 8, this was a violation of the statutes requiring seperation of church and state and therefore they should no longer be tax-exempt.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is small potatoes. It is also, I fear, an example of 'jumping on the morally outraged bandwagon'. I say that 'I fear' this because it is exactly this kind of pants wetting, energy wasting, misguided enthusiasm that results in liberals getting nothing done other than a tiz-woz. It's what the conservatives hate about liberals. It's also what lost the Prop 8 fight (the loonies won because they did not waste time clinging to themselves, being outraged and targetting people who already had their vote; they targeted the undecideds in the middle of the state who so unclear on what the matter at hand was, they were led to believe it was about "teaching gay marriage in schools").

I am just as appalled as the next person that some people feel that the sanctity of their own marriage is somehow threatened by men being allowed to marry men or women being allowed to marry women. I was angered that Utah was, essentially, able to change California's constitution. I kept my residency in California partially so I could vote againste Proposition 8 - I am a Californian at heart and I intend to return there. I am also usually not one to cry out "Stop picking on the Mormons!". I find the basic tenants of their religion - the misogyny, the racism, the rampant breeding and and virulent spreading of misinformation - offensive. But let's look at the big picture. The line between church and state is so blurred in this country, is so wrought with loopholes and hypocrisies, that asking the government to take away the LDS Church's tax-exempt status is like walking up to a group of bullies beating someone up and asking only one of them to stop, then walking away, leaving the rest to pound it's victim into the dirt; In short, it's Pointless.

Let's not pick on just the Mormons. Let's pick on all religions. Let's get rid of tax exempt status for all churches, unless they can prove that they truly fall into the category of a non profit organisation. There's a lot of people out there making a lot of money by that are taking advantage of others in the form of tithes or donations or whatever you want to call it. They do it by convincing people that they need to buy their own salvation. They do it by taking advantage of people who are poor, uneducated and scared. It's time that this ridiculousness stopped being virtually sanctioned by the government, and it's time churches, all churches, stopped getting their way with people who aren't idiotic enough to be a part of them.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I went on a proper adventure today.

A real adventure.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Apple tarts and red cardinals

More deliciousness was created in my kitchen yesterday as I made and subsequently ate an apple tart with a cream cheese filling.

I did this in order to avoid folding the laundry in the living room, although one can argue (and I certainly did, to myself) that the apples needed to be used and that laundry...well laundry is always going to be there. In fact, it's still there. And I'm going to go and ride, so it will be there a while longer.

Ithaca is amazingly, eerily and strangely beautiful right now. All the leaves have come off of most of the trees, leaving roads and paths and electrical wires visible where once they were hidden away. The footpath that leads along our Fall Creek is now completely exposed and noticeable from the street (which some how makes it seem less magical) and has a thick carpet of bright yellow leaves (which somehow makes it feel more magical). Since all the insects have stopped their buzzing, chirping and rattling and because we've had a lot of rain, we can hear the waterfall at night. It's much fuller and more energetic, almost angrier than when we first arrived, which makes me think that the crippling humidity and unbearable heat had perhaps made the waterfall a little lazier as it had made me not want to leave the couch.

We have a red cardinal and his mate that have visited our back garden twice now. They're quite cheerful and spend there time either flitting across the garden with the sparrows or else sitting patiently in a big yellow bush.

Friday, November 7, 2008

We're all going to be let down.

So I suppose I should comment on this election thing, seeing as it was quite a historical moment. I'm riding the current optimism wave as best I can, but to be honest:

I think Barack Obama is a smart man. He ran his own campaign, made smart choices and as far as foreign policy is concerned, at least it's no longer as embarrassing to travel to foreign countries. He at least appreciates the concept of diplomacy and we can finally rid ourselves of this ridiculous idea that America is somehow superior to the rest of the world or at least shed the fear based need to present itself that way. With Obama as president and winning as he did with such a resounding victory, we can sort of say "Um...yeah, those last 8 years... we're, really really sorry. Look, we've tried to fix it." This is opposed to McCain/Palin which would be like giving the rest of the world a big middle finger. I mean any vice president who gets prank phone called by a Montreal radio host with an outrageous accent and overly personal topics of conversation can't have a grip on reality. I mean has she ever had a conference meeting?? With anyone?? Let alone with someone important?? And anyone as deceitful as someone like McCain would not show any foreign country that the US is worth dealing with:

But and here's the secret: Obama won't be as great as we all want him to be. He's going to let us down within the year and we'll all be terribly, terribly sad.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I want one of these

Okay, I realise that this might not be the most exciting idea, but I really want a root cellar in the off the grid, partial subsistence farm that Ryan and I want to build.

Stores of food for the winter and a place to store the pickled things! Like very advanced squirrels!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Last night I made ravioli from scratch, in continuing with this winter's obsession with squash.

I used this recipe for the pasta and these instructions for ravioli-ising it, it only required regular flour and eggs, which I had on hand. I also ended up adding a lot more water than the recipe recommended, to get the dough to the correct consistency. For the ravioli-ising, I think next time, I would use wax paper in order to be able to roll the pasta thinner than I was able to (or Ryan was able to, after I got tired of it). That way, one could pick up the second sheet more easily, for the "covering of the first sheet" step and also, one could use less flour which would make the sheets stick together more easily.

For the filling, I sliced a butternut squash in half, scooped out the seeds and stringy stuff (reserving the stringy stuff for stock and and the seeds set to soak in salt water overnight to be ready roasting and snacking on) put it face down in a baking dish in quarter inch of water. I put it in the oven at 375, for about 45 minutes. Once that was done, I scooped out the flesh into a bowl and mashed, adding about 2 tablespoons of butter, salt to taste, fresh ground black pepper to taste, oregano to taste and about half a cup to a cup of flour. I added 4 cloves diced garlic (you could add less if you don't like garlic) that I had tossed it in the frying pan with some butter, on a lowish heat, so as not to cook but not brown it.

This all got stirred vigorously until it was smooth and then turned into ravioli. It made enough for dinner last night (served with sauteed onions and broccoli in olive oil) and another batch to freeze for another evening when I have less time.

It was time consuming but quite fun and also delicious. I started thinking about all the other sorts of ravioli I could make: eggplant, fresh pea, red pepper, pretty much anything with a nice strong flavour that goes well with pasta.

I'll post pictures when I have a bit more time.